by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
A scrappy, falling-down goal by Chelsey Petrich in the second overtime capped a big comeback by Elk River in a 6-5 conquest of Cloquet-Esko-Carlton on Saturday in the Section 7AA semifinals at Cloquet.
The Elks (12-12-3) will duel top-seeded Forest Lake (14-10-2) for a state berth on Thursday in Blaine at 7 p.m., not a likely scenario for a young team that was 2-8-3 at one point.
The No. 3 seed Elks were down 3-0 in the second period and 5-3 with five minutes left in the third period, but overtook the No. 2 Lumberjacks (15-9-2), a team they tied 4-4 on Dec. 14.
Petrich, one of just two seniors starting the game along with goalie Kim Scott, settled the issue 3:06 into the second OT.
“It was nice to see Chelsey get it,” said coach Joe Heasley. “I’m not picky who scores in a situation like that, but she’s a senior and she’s never been the big goal-scorer, just a very responsible kind of player.”
It was a wrap-around goal on her second effort. She tried to jam it in initially. CEC goalie Alyssa Acheson got her stick on it and knocked it back. Petrich, falling down, reached out her stick and rapped the puck again — to the far side of the net this time, off the pipe and in. A huge pile-up ensued.
“The Cloquet players were lining up to shake hands, and the girls were still piling on,” said Heasley. “We had to yell at them to go shake hands.”
If the game-winner sounds like the kind of goal that Petrich’s longtime linemate used to make, her teammates thought so, too.
“Yes, that was a Jonna Curtis goal,” said Kaylee Forster, referring to the school’s all-time scoring leader, now a New Hampshire freshman.
The Elks had a 51-26 edge in shots in a game ruled by offense. Acheson stopped 45 of 51 and Scott 21 of 26.
C-E-C had a 3-0 lead on goals by Carley Esse, Courtney Ketola and Cassandra Inman before eighth-grader McKenna Wesloh got the Elks on the board late in the second period. Sophomore Abbie Canton made it 3-2 early in the third, assisted by Wilson and Petrich.
The Lumberjacks maintained a two-goal lead in the wild third period with Mikayla Baker scoring twice, sandwiched around Forster’s goal that was assisted by Breanna Simon and Mandy Sailor.
Down 5-3, the Elks kept the pressure on with senior Maddie Gregerson scoring her first varsity goal, on a power play, assisted by Wesloh and Petrich, with 4:56 left.
Elk soph Samantha Westgaard knotted the score, unassisted, with 2:12 left, as she picked up the puck by the boards, walked it to the face-off circle and fired it low and past the goalie.
The Elks had a 6-2 edge in shots in the scoreless first overtime before Petrich finished the job in the second. Petrich has eight goals this year, three of them in the playoffs.
Two teams who don’t know much about each other will duel for the championship of a section with no powerhouse teams Thursday at Blaine’s Fogarty Arena.
“We don’t know a whole lot about Forest Lake except that, from what I hear, they’ve got a pretty good goalie who saves about 93, 94 percent,” said Heasley.
The Elks will be trying for their sixth state trip since 2003. Forest Lake has gone just once, in 2001.